140. Editorial Note

In December 1979, the Carter administration ordered the preparation of three documents on Iran during the hostage crisis, referred to in combination as the “White Paper.” (See Document 91.) The first document is a mostly unclassified Department of State study prepared by the Office of the Historian, “A Brief History of United States Policy Toward Iran, 1941–1979.” This study was presented to the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff Paul Kreisberg under a December 15 covering memorandum from Historian David F. Trask. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 43, Subject File, Iran Reference Material 12/79) The President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski, forwarded the study to President Jimmy Carter on January 10, noting that it was “factual,” and “without either justification or analysis of key policy judgments.” Carter wrote at the top of this memorandum, “Zbig—This is not very helpful to me. I need our decisions recapitulated—i.e., options given to Shah, Huyser’s function, etc. J.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 30, Iran 1/1/80–1/10/80) The reference is to General Robert E. Huyser, Presidential Envoy to Iran, January 1979.

The second document is a 70-page January 10 classified paper, “A Brief Overview of the Iranian-U.S. Relationship, 1941–1979,” prepared by an interagency working group. It was cleared by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff Anthony Lake, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Harold Saunders, and the Iran Desk Officer Henry Precht. (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Study of US-Iran Relations)

The third document is a summary of the major documents on 20 important issues, “Survey of U.S.-Iranian Relations,” transmitted to Brzezinski in a January 29 covering memorandum from Lake. Lake noted that the summary “includes most of the materials we would need in preparing to present our case on what has happened in Iran to the Congress, our public, or others, if and when we decided to do so.” He also noted that the work on the White Paper was not complete due to lack of access to the documents of major government agencies and from previous administrations. (Department of State, Executive Secretariat FOI Files, Lot 88D276, Binder, and memorandum from Tarnoff to Christopher, February 21; Department of State, Records of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Presidential Breakfasts Jan/Feb/Mar 1980)